If the United Nations Reclassifies Cannabis, Will the United States Follow? – News

Currently, cannabis sits in the strictest schedule, alongside drugs like heroin, both domestically and internationally. By international standards, that means marijuana may have very, very limited medical use, but member nations who’ve signed onto drug treaties still should not legalize it.

The UN’s review of cannabis’ international scheduling, along with the FDA’s request for comment from the American public, provokes a question: could a shift in the international politics of cannabis have any bearing on pot policy in the U.S.? The short answer is, just a little.

Cannabis’ inclusion in UN drug treaties is based on “dubious grounds” set out by a 1935 League of Nations study that was “extremely biased” and “enough to question the legitimacy of the current classification of cannabis in the treaties,” explains John Walsh, director of drug policy at

As a member nation to the treaties, the U.S. must ultimately vote on any revisions, including if WHO were to recommend that cannabis be rescheduled internationally. “It’s important to recognize the limitations that the treaties, including rescheduling in the treaties, still pose for a government that wants to completely legalize and regulate like Canada is about to do,” he says.

For more liberal countries choosing to go their own way on ganja, the punishment for violating the treaties could be an embargo against such lenient nation-states, preventing them from receiving essential medicines, Walsh says. The drug treaties themselves are meant to provide access to essential medicines in exchange for adopting certain drug policies, so the flip side would be to deprive any violator from receiving such medications via trade. ‘”

Case in point, while countries should aim to honor the treaties as a whole – rather than pick and choose aspects of them la carte – violating outdated international drug treaties should not dissuade an individual country from liberalizing its drug policy. In the meantime, as more U.S. states legalize marijuana and more countries experiment with softer drug laws, the conflict between national and international law is becoming increasingly problematic as the UN remains slow to deschedule cannabis. “Too many countries are still completely wedded to the prohibitionist framework that the treaties set out, and they’re not going to vote to remove cannabis from that framework,” he says. With the bulk of the treaties having been negotiated since the 1950s, as the United States reigned as a global superpower, most countries cooperated with the American prohibitionist agenda.

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